'Our mistakes caught up to us'

There was little doubt what went wrong in what became the game that ended the Steelers' season.

"The question is, what went right?" defensive tackle Cam Heyward offered after Sunday night's stunning, 48-37 loss to the Browns in an AFC Super Wild Card game at Heinz Field.

The question regarding how the Steelers could go from a team that started the season 11-0 into one that lost four of its last five regular-season games and then fell behind the Browns, 28-0, in the first quarter of the first playoff game was seemingly tougher to answer.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took at shot at it, anyway.

"We just didn't win," he said.

"I don't have any magical answers," Roethlisberger continued. "We didn't put it together. Like I said, (Sunday night) the glaring issue is we turned the ball over. We turned the ball over a ton. That just can't happen."

The first blemish on the resume was a 23-17 loss to Washington on Dec. 7, the first loss of the season and the first of what became a three-game losing streak.

But Heyward wasn't certain that was a specific turning point.

"You know, I don't know if it dates back to the Washington game," he said. "There were games where we didn't, we won games and still made mistakes, and I thought our mistakes caught up to us.

"You know, you look back to this game (against the Browns) and you think as a defense, you didn't control the rushing, you didn't get off the field, you didn't get any turnovers, any sacks, and we weren't playing complementary football to the offense. If they turn over the ball, at least surrender three points. And we didn't do that.

"If we had a checklist of how to play the worst game possible, we did that."

Added head coach Mike Tomlin: "You know, we didn't do enough. We didn't position (the players) in enough good circumstances. We didn't make enough plays, particularly in the critical moments.

"We were a group that died on the vine."

Game action photos from the Steelers' Wild Card Round game against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field

NOT MUCH DEBATE: The Steelers trailed, 35-10, at halftime, but closed the gap to 35-23 and faced a fourth-and-1 from their 46-yard line as the third quarter ended and the fourth quarter began.

Tomlin opted to punt, and the Browns scored another touchdown on their next possession for a 42-23 lead.

"We had some stops, wanted to pin them down, maybe provide the short field for our offense," Tomlin said. "We had maybe two or three consecutive stops. I just wanted to keep the momentum going in terms of field positioning. But we weren't good enough in terms of doing that."

Roethlisberger said there wasn't much give-and-take regarding what should be done during the break between the third and fourth quarters.

"I mean, that's coach's decision," he said. "I was prepared to go for it. He said we were punting it. That was the end of the discussion."

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